Bars were not a place she frequented with any regularity but she took a deep breath and walked in. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and pungent liquor hung heavy in the air like a dense fog.
On the last stool at the end of the bar, sat a man who seemed to lack awareness not only of his surroundings but also to the crowd of rambunctious patrons, drinking themselves into oblivion.
She took a seat one stool away. The bartender, walked over and said “what’ll it be?” She ordered a Club Soda. “Alright,” he said. “I haven’t seen you around here before. Are you new in town?”
She answered “not really. I’ve just never been in this bar.”
He was an older gentleman, maybe in his mid to late fifties and lacked the profile of the traditional tired, gruff, weathered bartender often portrayed in movies and books. He was average height, average weight, average build and had average looks but he had piercing light grey eyes that matched his hair.
He made her drink and said “my name’s Gilmer but most folks call me Gil. And who might you be?”
She smiled and said “Fleming. My name is Fleming.”
“Well, Fleming,” Gil said. “Welcome. How long have you been sober?” Fleming wasn’t sure she was more insulted or more surprised. She asked him what made him think that she was recovering alcoholic.
Gil said “recovering alcoholics come in, order a Club Soda and just sit there and nurse it. I think it’s some sort of right of passage or something but I don’t mind. I’m not a drinker myself but I’ve seen my share of drunks and owning a bar tends to shed light on what alcohol can do. It can get a hold of you and before you know it, you are its slave. Some are able to shake it but some aren’t. I watch these people and wonder what their lives are about. Some are here to just have a good time and some are here to drink their sorrows away. That doesn’t work, you know, but they don’t want to hear it.”
Fleming didn’t say what she was thinking. She was wondering if alcohol had gotten “a hold” of him. Instead she said “you own this bar?”
Gil smiled and said “I do. I’ve owned it for almost ten years now. It just kind of fell into my lap you might say.”
Fleming laughed and said “fell into your lap?”
Gil said “it’s a long story.”
“Do you enjoy bar tending?” she asked.
“Yes and no,” said Gil. “I have a Masters’ Degree in Psychology, but as I said, this bar just kind of fell into my lap.”
Fleming wasn’t surprised about his degree. Gil not only didn’t fit the normal profile of a bartender, he didn’t sound like one.
“Maybe someday, you’ll tell me your story,” she said.
Before Gil could say anything, the man on the last stool stood up, took a twenty out of his wallet, tossed it next to his empty glass, and left. Fleming looked at Gil and said “what’s his story?”
To be continued_____________________________